Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor, Jan. 26

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Writer claims abuse is rampant

To the editor:

It was with interest that I read Jeffrey Howard's guest column published on January 19. As a Tennessee Walking Horse owner who has fought soring for fourteen years, I feel your readers deserve to know several facts missing from his account of the situation.

Mr. Howard blames the USDA and former President Obama for Walking Horse woes, and yet he never mentions the elephant in the room: soring. Soring became illegal in 1970 and yet it is widespread in the performance horse, big lick show circuits. The new rules, approved by thousands during the public comment period, attempt to clean up the loopholes that allow soring to continue.

1. The findings of the 35 year old Auburn Study that a 6 oz. chain or less does not harm the horse is irrelevant because those chains were used on clean pasterns and not pasterns that were treated with caustic substances (there was hair loss with a 6 oz. chain). The USDA's swab tests from the 2015 Celebration revealed that over 90 percent of the horses' pasterns had evidence of prohibited substances. FACT: The Auburn study establishes nothing regarding the reality of how Tennessee Walking Horses are actually shown in the 21st century.

2. Mr. Howard implied that the USDA is not using sound science in its determinations of whether horses are sore. Nothing could be further from the truth! FACT: Science-based inspection methods already in use by the USDA include swabbing and chemical testing to detect illegal soring and masking agents; thermography to spot abnormal temperature patterns -- abnormal heat indicating pain/inflammation and abnormal cold indicating use of numbing agents -- as well as to detect scars indicative of soring; and x-rays to reveal pressure to reveal pressure shoeing and insertion of hard foreign objects, or abnormal rotation of the coffin bone in the hoof, caused by intentional misuse of stacks." (Information directly quoted from Congressman Ted Yoho's website supporting the PAST Act, Source: yoho.house.gov/legislation/past-act-hr-3268)

3. The claim that the HSUS supported the PAST Act is true; however, it is also true that the PAST Act was supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, United States Equestrian Federation, every state veterinary medical association in the U.S. (including Tennessee), the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Horse Council, Friends of Sound Horses, National Walking Horse Association, HSUS, ASPCA, American Horse Protection Association, National Sheriff's Association, the Tennessean, the editorial boards of The Tennessean, Chattanooga Times Free Press and the Lexington Herald-Leader. Basically, Mr. Howard's Big Lick position of opposition is supported by NO one outside their group.

4. The PAST Act had more bipartisan support in the last two sessions than any other bill. Its non-passage was due to the heavy lobbying of and campaign donations to Senators Lamar Alexander and Mitch McConnell by the Big Lick community over the past 30 years.

5. The claim that the equipment does not harm the horse or else it would be banned in all breeds is misleading. No OTHER breed uses chains. In fact, they are not even permitted on the show grounds of USEF and other organization' shows which proves how abusive they are considered.

Eliminating chains and stacks would save the Walking Horse community and not devastate it. The fact remains that one tiny segment, Big Lick, has hijacked the Walking Horse industry. The breed is devastated because of this group's nonfactual rhetoric and refusal to extinguish brutal and cruel exhibition and training practices.

How does one market a breed when the entire world recoils with horror when they see stumbling horses, chains on pasterns and a breed registry that values tradition more than the welfare of the horse? It is impossible to market which is why it is dying. The popularity of the Tennessee Walking Horse would soar if future owners knew they would not encounter scorn from the worldwide equine community for owning the most abused breed in the world. Instead, its leaders will spend millions of dollars to protect the "rights" of a shrinking group of exhibitors who continue to value their blue ribbons from their hobby more than their horses.

Teresa Bippen

President, Friends of Sound Horses (fosh.info)


Delay of horse rules is 'worrisome'

To the editor:

I live in middle Tennessee as well, and am writing to you to express my concern about a certain regulation that was set to be in the Federal Registry until it was frozen to be reviewed with other things passed recently before our change in leadership.

In Shelbyville, I'm sure you are well aware of the rough waters between The Walking Horse Industry and anti-soring advocates. Recently, the USDA stepped in, and after several public hearings and a long comment period, they passed a regulation in addition to the long standing Horse Protection Act (HPA) to use unbiased employees to perform stricter inspections on horses to check for soring, remove stacks, and remove chains.

This is worrisome, and myself and others are hoping that if we shed enough spotlight on this pending regulation and show our support, that it will continue through office quickly and be set into place to protect our beautiful, naturally gaited equines.

In addition, I have noticed that Jeffery Howard is a new face on the board at The National Walking Horse Celebration hosted in Shelbyville, thanks to an article in your paper. I would like to see that he is up-to-date on these issues and considers supporting the very breed he is professionally involved with to prevent future abuse and help the breed, the show, and the town of Shelbyville come back strong and proud. I'm sure your paper can spread the word and make important contacts about this pressing issue.

Caitlin Popplewell


Coach Massengale left his mark

To the Editor:

Like hundreds of other men who grew up in Shelbyville during the turbulent sixties and seventies, I mourn the loss of Coach Lendell Massengale tonight. His impact on me and everyone who knew him is immeasurable.

As a freshman at Central High School in 1968, I was well aware of the racial tensions in the world. Like most Southern towns, Shelbyville had only recently discontinued segregated rest rooms, restaurants and now schools. But unlike most other Southern towns, we had Coach Massengale. He was the difference.

With his imposing physical strength, Coach broke up many fights and diffused countless hallway confrontations. With his strong character and leadership skills, he taught us that racism was wrong and that no one should be judged by the color of their skin. He learned our names, talked to us, joked with us, encouraged us to do better and became our role model. He taught me to dress better, wear nicer shoes (custom mail order) and appreciate good music. As my track coach, he always had something good to say even though I never finished a race better than last place. As a fellow disc jockey on WHAL, I would stay over during his 10 p.m. to midnight shift to be introduced to classic soul and talk about sports and politics.

Behind Coach all the way was his wife Marilyn, and together they raised four children (including my classmate, Lendell, Jr.) who were all a reflection of their parents -- excellent students, good athletes and role models. In just about every way, Coach was the right person, in the right place at the right time to lead a town out of a shameful period of ignorance and intolerance.

After high school graduation, I was a better person than I was in 1968 -- and Shelbyville was a better town -- and even a better town in 2017 -- due greatly to the leadership and character of Coach Lendell Massengale. Make America great again? Too late, Coach already did. God bless you, Soul King.

Robert Davidson


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  • MS Bippen seems to be the victim of some misinformation. I suggest that she reread the Auburn Study.

    "Phase XI. Use of 2, 4 and 6 Ounce Chains

    The objectives of this study were to evaluate the use of 2, 4 and 6 ounce chains in Tennessee Walking Horses, without using any other chemical or mechanical technique to induce inflammation. Use of 2, 4 and 6 oz. chains did not cause any detectable pain, tissue damage. Thermographic and pressure evaluation did not change significantly. Thus, it was concluded that the use of 2, 4 and 6 oz. chains for a duration of 2to 3 weeks did not produce any harmful effects to the horses’ legs, with exception to some loss of hair from 6 oz. chains in the pastern areas. "

    Under the law hair loss is permissible and does not indicate soring. In fact a callus is allowed under law, similar to one on a working man's hands, per a reference in the hearing on the scar rule. The horses today do not have scars, perhaps she needs to read the 5 binders of evidence submitted to the USDA in the comment period.

    In regard to her remark about prohibited substances, the swab tests carries no parameter. They test for less than 1PPM (a drop of water in a swimming pool) of ANY substance including, dirt, soap, fly spray even cholesterols, which is produced by the horses body and extruded in their sweat. The law say NOTHING may be on a horse and the USDA has attempted to enforce those exact words, while reinterpreting the scar rule to what they "think" it should be.

    Thermography is not accepted as a scientific test in any court, and if you read the paper on thermography you find that the machine in unreliable under horse show conditions. In fact each animal and the machine must be acclimate to the same temp (in the same place) for 20 minutes, out of sunlight and wind, with air temperature restrictions, impossible at a horse show. Swabbing is NOT scientific unless you have written protocols listing prohibited substances, and sane PPMs showing at what quantity those substances affect the horse's performance.

    Saddlebreds, Morgans, Arabians and many other horses use chains, bungy cords and many other action devices to enhance action. Whether they show in them or not, to say they do not use them is false. Also to point out USEF sanctioned shows are limited. Not every horse show of breeds outside the walking horse world is a USEF show, so their rules DO NOT apply.

    As far as what the "world thinks" we can see with today's media the false "news" and public opinion and polls being perpetuated.

    I do recognize that in the animal rights world HSUS is the king of fake news and contrived situations and media manipulation. I would also like to point out that Keith Dane, HSUS Equine Welfare VP started out at the same organization that MS. Bippen represents, the radical animal rights group FOSH. A group which backed the demise of the $52,000 annual donation that the Jackson Horse show gave to sick children in the hospital. FOSH, which is an HIO supposedly inspecting horses, does not nor has ever inspected the performance walking horse. Ms. Bippen's opinion seems to lack substance.

    -- Posted by be-well-informed on Tue, Jan 31, 2017, at 4:08 PM
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